Denver, Colorado, USA
I am an American who grew up outside the U.S. I spent 5 years in Portugal, 10 years in Spain, and 2 years in Mexico. The first time I lived in the U.S. was when I started college in San Diego at the age of 17. I too felt an overwhelming sense of culture shock when I moved to the U.S. In my mind, I was not at all like "those people" (the Americans). It was very painful, and I know that it was part of the reason that I attended 3 different colleges throughout the U.S. in the process of obtaining my degree. The reason that I moved from college to college had more to do with trying to tune into a vague feeling of familiarity with the people and the location and less to do with academics. In other words, I chose to go to San Diego because my Family spent several summer vacations there, or I chose to go to New Hampshire because of one summer spent on Lake Winnipesaukee. I was looking for belonging and familiarity. The culture shock lasted about 4-5 years. There is a book written about this phenomenon that is titled Third Culture Kids, by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken.
I am now settled into the Rocky Mountains and have a strong love for this region. I consider myself to be an American but with a strong multicultural sensitivity and awareness. Despite the 26 years I have now spent in the U.S., I have never developed a strong sense of patriotism toward this country. That doesn't mean that I don't value and appreciate this culture. It just means that in many ways I don't feel a complete identification with this country. I feel that growing up overseas contributed to a more global identification. My response to 9/11 was not to view it as an American tragedy and fly the American flag but to view it as a human tragedy on American soil. I work as a bilingual psychotherapist here in Denver and see both Spanish-speaking clients as well as American clients. I continue to love speaking the Spanish language and feel a strong affinity for the people of Spain and Latin America.
13 July 2003
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